Anne Boleyn characters and audition pieces


 Robert Cecil:  adviser to the late Queen Elizabeth I, and the man who corresponded for three years with James VI of Scotland to ensure he succeeded her.  Dry and thorough civil servant.

George Villiers:  minor nobleman at Court of King James.  Young gay man who becomes James’s lover (NB: they exchange a passionate kiss on stage.  ALSO NOTE actor also briefly plays a Gloucestershire countryman)

Thomas Cromwell:  crafty ‘fixer’ and manipulator

King James I:  Scottish King who has just taken the English throne after Elizabeth’s death.  Eccentric, sometimes vulgar, gay, cross-dresser (NB exchanges a passionate kiss on stage with another man), religiously-tolerant Protestant who wishes an end to religious strife

William Tyndale: Lutheran Protestant, viewed by the C of E as a heretic.  Academic, intellectual Puritan.  Translator of the New Testament into English, later adapted by others and credited to King James.  (NB Gloucestershire accent)

King Henry VIII: still at an age for roistering and womanising.  Much in love with Anne and manipulated (advised?) by her.

Cardinal Wolsey:  the old schemer. Middle-aged, fat.

Lady Rochford:  close confidante to Anne Boleyn, and also her brother’s wife.  A weak-willed lady courtier; allows herself to give away secrets to Cromwell.

Anne Boleyn:  charismatic, charming, labelled ‘witch’ and ‘whore’ by some for courting Henry away from his wife Katherine of Aragon, but much in love with him and also keen to use that love to help him break from Rome and thus reinforce her own Protestantism.  So – a schemer, but not as clever as Cromwell!

Dr John Reynolds: middle-aged Puritan reformer.  Passionate but open to reason and compromise.

Dean Andrewes:  middle-aged conservative C of E clergyman, favours sticking to established Church practice but can see reason

Lady Jane Grey, Lady Celia: young lady courtiers, given to go and giggling. Jane Grey became Henry’s next wife after Anne. (NB both actors also play Countrywomen, Gloucestershire accents)

Sloop / Singer and Simpkin / Parrot:  youngish servants at the Court, watching and slyly commenting / gossiping together as well as assisting Cromwell.  (NB both actors must double)

AUDITION PIECES:  please note that some sections have been photocopied from the printed text.  They can’t be placed here as attachements, so they are being attached to Chris Barltrop’s note on the Here to There page at Facebook. 


Audition piece ANNE

(Direct to the audience) 

Do you want to see it?  Who wants to see it?  Do you?  You?  I’ll show then. (Opens the bag)  No, I won’t (Closes the bag)  I won’t!  I cannot see the advantage of it, and that was what I was taught, by Margaret of Burgundy when I was thirteen.  ‘Know the advantage of everything, Anne!’   And you won’t like me for showing you, you’ll say it’s boastful, they said I was boastful, over-weening.  And why should I want you to love me?  Did anyone around me every love me, but for the King?  So you can’t see!  You can’t! (Stamps her foot. Then laughs)  Or would it be fun?  Would it be a scandal?  Better; would it make you laugh?  Oh, that’s all right, then.  Here…(Puts her hand in the bag) Ready?  Look!  (Takes a Bible out of the bag)  It’s my Bible!  Why?  Don’t you realise?  This killed me!  This book!  This put me in the Tower, this made the sword, the sword, the sword…they played a trick.  As I was kneeling.  They made me look one way.  And from the other way the sword…sang.  In the air.  For a second I heard it sing, and …(pauses, then kisses the Bible and puts it back in the bag)  What did you think I was going to show you?  This?  (takes out her severed head)  This?  This?  Funny, a head’s smaller than you think.  Heavy little cabbage, that’s all.  Let me show you something. Eyes closed, see?  (Pulls the eyelids up with her fingers)  For a moment, I saw my body lying in the straw.  And I closed my eyes.  It was I, closing them…


She has miscarried with King Henry’s child. 

To Henry.   Do you hate me?  It is hateful!

He kneels and embraces her.

What does it mean?  It can’t be God’s will, Henry.  It can’t!   He wants you to have a son!   What if I can’t give you one?  What if I can’t?  (Determined but loving)   I will give you a son.  Yes!

Oh, to be alone with you.  ‘On some unhaunted isle.  Obscure from all society, From love and hate, from love and hate and worldly foes’

We’re not just man and woman. We’re a king and a queen.  Really!  That’s what they say about us, out there!


Audition piece CARDINAL WOLSEY

 Who was the one the King clambered up to?  (Grunts)  I was terrified he was going to fall!  And how much did all this cost?  (Reacts!)  Twenty pounds?!  To have a bunch of women throw fruit at you?  His Majesty’s hour of youth is stretching into years!  Ah well!  (Turns to go, stops)  Did you say Anne Boleyn?  The sister of the one he had last year?  Had the mother too, didn’t he?   God’s teeth!  Is he working his way through the whole family?

You’re sure it was the Boleyn girl?  Young women seem all the same to me, masks on or off!   You think it will last?  What about the father, watching the Royal Prerogative working its way up his family’s skirts?  Better look out an honour or two for him, to keep him flexible.  Flexed   In a bent-over position!

What concerns me.  (Beat)   What concerns me, is the loveliest of all, who is not here tonight.  Is the Queen even in the Palace?   You can’t blame her.  To sit watching her husband climb wooden towers after twenty-year-olds.  You have someone close to her?  Your eyes and ears are everywhere, Master Cromwell!

I’ll go back to York house and do some work.  I can’t stand the stench of lust in these rooms.  Even the tapestries reek of it!


Your Majesty, it grieves me to report a most heinous, offensive matter, sadly implicating the Lady Anne.  This book…Sire, it is heretical!

(He is angrily told to hand the book back to Lady Anne)

Your Majesty, I protest…

(The King and party leave.  Wolsey is left alone)

Where did that anger come from?  Suddenly.  Ruin in his eyes.  Suddenly…I feel all my greatness flowing from me.  Summer, you’re in the sumptuous robes of power, then…the blink of an eye, and it’s winter, you’re naked in the frost.  No, I won’t have it.  I won’t slip away, lamenting the whims of princes.  I won’t go quietly, meditating on man’s rise and fall, whingeing about fate and wanton boys, pulling off the wings of flies.  I’ll not fall like Lucifer, never to rise again.  I’ll fight.  (A moment)  Fight.  (A moment)


Audition piece ROBERT CECIL

You come, Sire, a King of Scotland and rightful heir to the English throne.  For the Kingdom was cast into darkness, the sun of Eliza set, her people were cast into darkness and cold.  But now from  the north a new sun has risen, Your Majesty from Scotland ascends the throne, light floods the rejoicing towns and villages, a new glory and light shines upon us.

I have picked the best dresses, Sire.  (Calls)   Come!

(Aside)  Parrot?  The dresses,  You were going to sell them?  Don’t tell me!  I let you have the pewter plate.  But none – none! –  of the silver.  (Waves the servant away)

Sire, there is another garment.  We found it in Her late Majesty’s private closet, locked away. (Shows the dress)  It is made for a great occasion.  Yes – a coronation.  Not Queen Elizabeth’s, but her mother’s.   Queen Anne.  Anne Boleyn.

(King James examines the dress closely, holding it against himself as if trying for size and look.   He sniffs it!)

Your Majesty…er…

(Direct to audience)  I put this man on the throne of England.  What have I done?

(King James has found a Bible in William Tyndale’s translation – a ‘banned book’!)

Tyndale?  He was a fanatic!  Scholar or not, the men was a dangerous agitator, Sire.  They did burn him when they caught him…

(The King comments that ‘we must settle religion in England’)

Perhaps not a fool.  Or:  the wisest fool in Christendom!


Audition piece GEORGE VILLIERS

 Very graciously Your Majesty told me to be in attendance.  I am, from my heart, most grateful to Your Majesty.  To wait upon the newly-risen sun is…

I assure Your Majesty I have nothing up my sleeve!

I like to read.  I enjoy The Romance of the Rose. My father was a gentleman, Sire.  And my mother sent me to France for an education.  Where I learnt the reading of romances in French.  Well…not really in French…more in English…translation.

The fencing was very good, and the dancing.  And it’s very useful being able to eat a whole chicken.  With all the bones.  I didn’t learn that in France.  That was from being brought up in Leicestershire.  But it mightily impressed the frogs.  And as for reading Romance… we try not to do depth in Leicestershire.

Sire, this book you’ve shown me.  Is it by William Tyndale?  Look, there’s handwriting down the edge…

‘My loving Lord, as much as you desire, that I will…’   It’s Boleyn.  Anne Boleyn!  Writing to King Henry!  Was it witchcraft?  Oh, angels save us!  No, no Sire – I’m not Catholic.  Not theological at all.  Church of England.


Audition piece HENRY VIII

At your devotions?  And he snatched it from you?  While you were kneeling, praying?  He snatched your prayer book from you?  I won’t have this!  (To a Courtier) Get the Cardinal Wolsey from his dinner, now!

What, was the book valuable?  Illustrated, gold leaf, that he envied?  His greed outstrips his sense!  He eats, he piles up houses, horses, land, rare books, and does nothing for my great matter!   Now he spends time frightening you, my sweet!

(Anne hints that the book wasn’t what he thinks)

It wasn’t a prayer book?  A Gospel?  Worse!  To tear Holy Scripture from a  kneeling woman’s hands!  (Shouts off)   Get that fat man here!

(Anne tells him the book is by William Tyndale, who is regarded as a heretic)

By Tyndale?  My love, did you say…  Sweet heart of mine, that is…that is a book that is proscribed.  On a list that I proscribed.    William Tyndale is…The man is close to Luther.

(Anne:  The book argues that kings are responsible directly to God.  Not to the Pope)

Argues that?  From scripture?  You say he writes that England should be an independent, sovereign nation state, under God but no longer under the power of the Pope.   Independent…sovereign state…But what of the Church?

Ah…then…God annointed me King.  Therefore it is His will that I be Head of the Church!

And so…as Head of the Church of England…to whom may I appeal for my divorce?  Then…to myself!

Anne…you…you think dangerously!


(In Calais, two years later)

The King of France.  What is the matter with his mouth?  It is all skew-whiff.  And the spitting!  But…he was friendly!   And he wishes to see us married!  He has alliances with the Pope he cannot defy, but will do everything to help us.

Francis was courteous to us!  And he treated you royally?  As he should…The trick will be to make it known that he supports our marrying.  The more it is known among the Courts of Europe, the more pressure there will be on the Pope.  Seven years is long enough to have waited.  Don’t you think?  I have longed.   Little cat!  Cat and (himself)  bull!  True love.  Wife to me…


Audition piece KING JAMES

Two thousand dresses!  Elizabeth had two thousand dresses?  The pomping and pimping of princes!  Two thousand dresses.  We have come out of Scotland to a world of marvels.

(Makes a farting noise)  Oh, I do believe I ripped a fart!   No, not a fart.  It was a flash of light from my arse illuminating England.

You see, I come from a more primitive world.  I was brought up amongst the terrorism of great lords.  In Edinburgh I looked for courtiers with knives in their sleeves.  Here, I think the danger is from words in their mouths.

(They bring rich dresses and lay them out.  James speaks they do so.  He is referring to Lord Robert Cecil, who is his chief adviser here in the English Court)

For three years this Englishman wrote to me in secret, with Elizabeth slowly dying.  Who would I keep in my Privy Chamber?  Why, all of you my Lords, no need for jostling, assassination.  I’ve seen enough jostles and killings.  Did the old woman name me her successor to the Throne?  Cecil says yes.  But I doubt that.  And for a month I came down from Edinburgh, staying bin the great English houses, hunting, feasting.  I hanged a man in Newark, perhaps a mistake.  But let the Sassenach see a gesture, a move of the new royal hand.  And when I came to London, thousands in the streets, cries of joy and welcome.  And here I stand, suddenly…rich.

James pauses, staring at nothing.  Cecil coughs.  James comes back to life.  He fingers a dress, which we will later see him wearing.

Government by a show of glory.  Elizabeth understood that very well.  But glory is not enough, is it, to govern.  There must also be…one mind.  And fear!  Tum tum…


Audition piece LADY ROCHFORD

Anne, your life has changed.  I think you should go to your bath, not your prayers. Scent yourself with rose water, not church incense?  (Lower)  And you need devices.

You must know the French way.  Vinegar in balls of wool.  (Pause)  There are English methods.   These little blocks of wood.   You put them…

And there are other ways.  (Holds out two small objects)  The anus of a hare.  And…the testicles of a weasel.  You wear them on your wrist when…when you are with a man.

Yes, men call it witchcraft!  But we have to survive at Court.  With the men.  You know this, Anne?   You must!  The King already has a bastard son.  The Queen barely tolerates him.  For a new mistress to have a child would be dangerous.

You say you’ll have true love or nothing at all.  True love!  What is that?  You talk of true love with a Christian man.  Christian he may be, but a man he is not.  I mean…he is more than a man, he is a king!


The Lady Anne, Sir Thomas, is …hunting with His Majesty.

(It’s clearly not true)

The truth is, My Lady is indisposed.  A slight head cold.   At the last moment she thought it best not to ride out.

I did not tell you this at once because…because I was being too eager in my discretion.   His Majesty is most concerned at the slightest sign of a cold.  He is all too aware she once nearly died of the sweating sickness.

(Cromwell challenges her, and then calls her a lying fucking bitch)

Sir!  I beg your pardon to be excused.  I am withdrawing from this conversation!  Good day!

(She is manhandled, forced to stay)

How dare you!

Please!  I promised!

She has ridden out to meet…yes, Sir Thomas, yes, she IS that reckless!

(Cromwell leaves)

Oh, to keep a secret at Court.  Just one secret!  That would be so beautiful.  Anne, I’m sorry, I told.


Audition piece THOMAS CROMWELL

 ‘Gone’?  ‘Slipped away’?  She’s on the Court calendar as hunting with His Majesty.  It says ‘all day with the hunt, then to Farnham Castle at sunset’.

And she’s ‘slipped away’? I’ve told you again and again!  Make sure we know where everyone is, all the time!  Who is talking to who, who is pissing on who, who is fucking who!

Is she alone?  No-one took a horse with her?  The King’s mistress is out riding, alone?  In the countryside?  Amongst…people?

Oh, she told  the stable boy she would take the palfrey to water him?  She is very fond of the animal?  And she’s an animal someone else is very fond of!  I will personally administer whippings for this.  Arses will be shredded!

But let’s not let His Grace the Cardinal know!  At least not from us.  Not yet.  A Court is like a rabbit warren.  Many tunnels, but all in one hole.  People must stay in the hole!  They must not pop out!


My Lady Anne.  Shall we walk in the orchard?  It’s a very fine night.

Do you fear me?

The orchard>  There are perhaps holes for worms in apples.  But none for spies.

I know who gave you that sinful, sinful book. (Pause)    Is Master Tyndale well?  I know you met him!   How dare you tell a woman like Lady Rochford you were going to do something so sensitive?  A woman like that, who is one of the world’s leakers. Master Tyndale could have bene betrayed.  But he’s on his way back to Holland now.  He’ll be safe, thanks to the Lord’s guiding hand.

I suspect you are a Protestant, Lady Anne.  As am I.  (Pause)  You have my life in your hands.  So do we both.  We are at a balance.

You are seen – by some  –  as a hussy who planned to get your claws into the King from the moment you came to Court.  Let us say we are both creatures of this world.  While being servants of another.

I learnt, as a boy; when you know someone’s going to hit you, hit them first.  When I was big enough, I tried it on my father.  It worked.


Audition piece WILLIAM TYNDALE

NB  Tyndale has a Gloucestershire accent

You ask whether I would consent to be a member of the King’s Council?  A Privy Councillor?  Me?  And this offer is from His Majesty?  And what would Sir Thomas More say about me, the heretic Protestant, whispering in the King’s ear?  More wants to burn me.  Which I do take to heart now he is Lord Chancellor of England.

Ah, Satan’s mire!  You say I could take the Word of Christ to the heart of government.  And what word would that be, through the King’s ear, to the heart of England?  It would be ‘Oh King, oh King, you were wrong to divorce your wife.  Oh King, take back your true wife Catherine.

You quote Leviticus to me: ‘If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness:  they shall be childless’.  But hear Deuteronomy: ‘If brethren dwell together, and one of them die and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger.  Her husband’s brother shall go unto her, and take her to him wife, and perform the duties of a husband’s brother to her’

Leviticus refers to taking a brother’s wife when the brother is still living.  This is not my opinion; it is the Word of God.

(to Queen Anne Boleyn)   Your Majesty.  Against what the world says, I think you have Christ within you.  But the King must take back his true wife.

Madam, we must be our own confessors.  Best you look into your heart.  Good day to you.



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